Free Artist: The Story of Anton and Nicholas Rubinstein

By Catherine Drinker Bowen | Go to book overview

Emmanuel, the eldest, had been more reasonable. Emmanuel was educated; he could speak Latin and German and French and Russian. Emmanuel knew that a Tsar's heavy hand could reach across any border. Bessarabia was no longer free land, it belonged to the Tsar just as Berdichev did. Emmanuel had been reasonable. As for Gregor, father of two fine boys -- Jacob and the baby Anton Rubinstein -- Gregor had looked at his young wife before he spoke. . . .

Leading his tribe through the narrow streets of Berdichev, Román Rubinstein remembered the way Gregor had looked at his wife Kaleria, the tall German girl from over the border. . . . It was not fitting that a man should look to a woman for decisions, yet this blonde girl had more sense than all the Rubinstein sons put together, and old Roman knew it. Kaleria had nodded quickly, her lips firm, her blue eyes blazing with decision, and Gregor, turning to his father, had said the word that would give passports to his sons.

Thank God, Kaleria was back there in the procession, thought Román Rubinstein now, with the Christian bell tolling ominously in his ears. Kaleria was only a woman, but if any Rubinstein endeavored to slip out of the procession, Kaleria would most certainly call him back. The girl was as fearless as she was sensible; an easy- going fellow like Gregor had been lucky to get such a wife.

Slowly, silently, the procession moved forward, avoiding the eyes of onlookers, fearing a word as yet unspoken, Vikresti! Traitor. . . . It was a breath, a sigh, a terrible curse. Spoken or unspoken, it was in the mind and heart of every member of the procession, reaching them from nowhere, from everywhere, swooping down through the air, through the walls of houses. Kaleria Rubinstein heard it and held her blonde head high. Vikresti! Was it, then, so much worse than those other words the Jews had borne for centuries? At least this word brought its reward, unlike the yellow badge her fore- fathers had worn, the yellow sign on their doorways that had branded them outcasts, unbelievers.

Baby Anton slept heavy on Kaleria's arm; the boy Jacob, walking beside her, dragged at her hand. Kaleria spoke sharply to Jacob in German, but even as she spoke, her blue eyes were kind. What, she

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